Collector Of Lost Souls

TITLE: UP IN THE OLD HOTEL

AUTHOR: JOSEPH MITCHELL

PUBLISHER: PANTHEON; 716 PAGES; $27.50

THE BOTTOM LINE: A cult figure returns in a new collection of old masterworks.

He still comes into the office almost every day. New staffers frequently ask about the identity of the reticent 85-year-old with the soft North Carolinian accent. "A cult figure" is the usual answer. Sometimes they are referred to the dedication in a book by humorist Calvin Trillin: "To the New Yorker reporter who set the standard -- Joseph Mitchell." Hardly anyone else refers to Mitchell as a New Yorker reporter these days. After...

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